California is a fun(ny) place.

August 22, 2015

We wanted to see Jeff’s mom. It seemed an apt celebration of Jeff’s big 60 coming up this week, and  it had been too long since we’d seen her. We found her in good health and spirits and by the time we left, we had nearly solved the problems facing this nation, the Church, etc. (or not). Lynda started off our visit with a birthday celebration.

But thanks to the warm hospitality of several of our relatives, we had a grand trip to Oakdale, California.
Oakdale, California claims to be the cowboy capital of the world. But the rodeo is only in town in April, and since nobody in our family owns either cattle or horses, we enjoyed the less bovine activities and family camaraderie differently.

In case you haven’t heard, California is burning down. Our brother in law, Barry is a fireman and has been working for weeks with only one day breaks here and there. The skies were hazy the whole time we were there, but it does make for a striking sunset behind Jeff’s mom’s neighborhood.

Brother in law Barry took us to the shooting range at the Sportsman’s club to try out an AK-47. I’m thinking that this makes a great all-purpose gun. With a red-dot site, you can “obtain a target” at 400 feet with exact precision. It’s super reliable and almost never requires cleaning. I’m a crack shot, by the way! If I ever decide to hunt, this is what I’m going to get. Jeff (above) is practicing with a tidy little pistol. Thanks Barry for your wise precautions and patient training. I’m surprised at how much I enjoy shooting!

We enjoyed dinner at Suzie Belen’s. It’s a Mexican restaurant in an old, historic building in  downtown Oakdale. We made the “mistake” of ordering combo plates that had a taco, a chili rellano, a cheese enchilada and a bean tostada. It was a about $13 and could easily have fed three people with average appetites. The chili rellano was delicious and the taco with carne asada was yummy. Next time, I’ll order just those two items. The tostada and the enchilada (admittedly eaten the next day)were a bit sub-standard, though good enough. Points for huge portions and tasty recipes. The red salsa tasted a little scorched to me, though others liked it, and the bean dip that comes gratis with chips tasted like plain refried beans. The chips are nice and crisp.  I like the Oklahoma tradition of serving Mexican meals with red salsa, queso, chips and warm flour tortillas. Overall, I’d go back and recommend this place, just avoid over-ordering and bean dishes unless you like standard refried beans. 

A trip to the Oakdale Cheese Factory is a fun excursion. We bought some of the smoked Gouda and it was delightful. Smooth and creamy with a good balance of cheese and smoke. I loved sampling a wide variety of cheeses in the shop and they have a fun cheese-making display, too. It’s made on site, so you can see the cheese in process. 
There are some llamas and goats and chickens as well as pretty Koi ponds. This goat had a knarly horn, but he was friendly. I didn’t want to pet him since I know that the goat scent clings to your hands after you pet them. But other humans were more friendly than I was. 

 Brother-in-law Jim came up from Paso Robles to introduce us to his new Cherokee mistress, (his description, not mine). He took us up for a spin in her and proved himself to be a skillful pilot. We circled Tulloch reservoir, and got a good look at the Sierra foothills. The Cherokee is a very sturdy-feeling aircraft and Jim said they’re known to be easy to fly. It was sure good to see Jim, too. We hadn’t seen him since his wife’s (Shauna’s) funeral two and a half years ago.

The San Joaquin is still growing despite the worsening drought.

 Lynda and Barry borrowed some kayaks, (the sit on top kind,) and took us on a kayak trip down the Stanislaus River. We did the run from Knights Ferry to Horseshoe and it took us about three hours. There are lots of swimming holes with pretty little beaches and deep, clear, water and healthy trout. We saw a bunch of great blue herons and white herons, too. The river moves a little faster  than I was expecting in some places, but it’s just enough to make it fun paddling, requiring a bit of paddling skill or disengaging-from-rocks skill. There’s one little rapid area (I’m not sure if it’s spelled “Russian” rapids or Rushin'” rapids, but I suspect the former) that called for a few extra squirts of adrenaline. Sorry there are no pictures of the rapids, . . .I was busy with my paddle!

left to right: Jeff, me, niece Laurie, Lynda, Barry and Mom, (Kay). By the way, if you’re are a righteous, intelligent, kind, wise, handsome, hardworking young single man, Laurie is a darling girl with a charming personality and extremely sweet disposition. She’s RS president in her ward and soon to finish her degree at BYU in nursing.  

We ended up our round of excursions at Ferrarese’s Deli Restaurant. I know it’s appropriate to show the table BEFORE we have devoured our meal, but it was so yummy, we decided not to trouble the waitress until after the meal. But it’s a great little place with a charming, rustic atmosphere, generous portions and delicious recipes. Based on the desserts in the display case, it would be a delightful place to come just for dessert, too. I’ve rarely seen such decadence. But the meal was so big that there was no room for dessert, even if it was tempting. These sandwiches, shown, are on dinner-sized plates. Grilled chicken with applewood bacon, arugula and cheese, and the roll for the steak sandwich is about a foot long. Moist and flavorful!

Jeff comes by his good looks naturally. Jeff’s Dad had blue eyes and all three of his sisters have Kay’s brown eyes and more olive complexion. When we attended church with Jeff’s Mom, several people commented that Jeff looks a lot like his dad.  Boy, oh boy, did I get lucky in the in-law department! 

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